“Fifth Business – Deptford Trilogy #1” – re-read set aside at 23%

One of the dangers of re-reading a book is that you spoil the connection you had with it the first time around.

I first read the Deptford Trilogy thirty-three years ago. I consumed all three books back to back. The details of the plots have long since slipped through the ever-widening mesh of my memory but I was left with a strongly favourable impression created by good writing and the concept of seeing the same village and events from so many perspectives over the course of the trilogy.

It seemed to me that now would be a good time to revisit the trilogy and see Deptford through older eyes.

I’ve listened to more than two hours of this ten-hour audiobook and I’m now abandoning the attempt. The book is too dry, the story too slow and told from too great an emotional distance for me to connect with it. I recognise that some of this comes from the slightly cumbersome structure of the book, which is written in the form of a novel-length letter written by a retired schoolmaster to the Headmaster of the school at which he worked for forty-five years, in which the schoolmaster tells his life story from childhood on. This structure seems to create a double distance between the story and the reader, the first being the “this is what I remember” monotonality of the storytelling and the second being the implied didactic motivation for writing the book.

I’m setting the book aside so I can spend time with books that give me greater pleasure.

Thirty-three years ago, I would have felt guilty about that. This is a piece of classic Canadian literature after all. Now, my reading is always accompanied by a sense that the clock is ticking and that there are so many great reading pleasures available to me that I have to use what time I have wisely.Canadian

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